This article was taken from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/17/nhs-hit-squads-crack-payments-overseas-patients/
Hit squads will be sent into hospitals who are failing to charge overseas patients for treatment, following orders from regulators.
NHS watchdogs are targeting 50 trusts who between them have failed to recover £44m owing to them from patients who are not entitled to free care.
Senior officials said the hospitals should do more to recoup the funds, with NHS funding under “increasing pressure” and a need for money to be spent carefully.
Since October, patients who are not resident in the UK are expected to pay upfront for NHS treatment, apart from emergencies and GP care.
But NHS Improvement is concerned that hospitals are not doing enough to ensure payments are made.
Officials believe around 50 trusts, mainly located in cities, can recoup an additional £400,000 annually each from ineligible patients.
Under the plans, the trusts will receive “intensive support” to improve cost recovery, including examining waiting lists to identify early those who should be charged.
Experts in debt recovery will be sent into trusts as part of the crackdown.
NHS Improvement said NHS trusts should be claiming back around £167m in upfront charges for those ineligible for free care.
But only around £113m a year is being recovered, leaving trusts paying out around £50m more than they should .Most of the gap is found in among the 50 trusts now being targeted by watchdogs.
Specialist teams will visit them throughout this month to boost “cost recovery”.
Trusts will be given help improving waiting list “filtering” with red flags against patients who should be charged.
Visitors from the EU are entitled to free care at the point of delivery. But the measures will also see extra efforts to ensure such visitors present their EHIC cards, so hospital trusts can bill their home country for their care.
GP care still remains free, as does emergency treatment, including for heart attacks, strokes, most cancer care, pregnancy and A&E visits.
Dr Kathy Mclean, executive medical director at NHS Improvement said: “With NHS finances coming under increasing pressure, it is vital that hospitals are properly supported to recover income they are entitled to.
“The NHS should continue to be free at the point of use for people who are legally resident in the country, as well as for vulnerable groups, and that everyone should continue to have access to the urgent care they need.
“However, hospitals in England are missing out on more than £50m every year due to failings to recover the cost of treating and caring for visitors from overseas who fall outside of this category.”
Last year a London trust was revealed to be running a Home Office pilot scheme, which demands that women hand over passports before they give birth.
St George’s Hospital in south London drew up the scheme, which may form the basis of the national plan, after uncovering a scam which saw con-men charging Nigerian women who flew to the NHS to give birth.
Officials said the unit was used by around 900 pregnant health touristslast year — with deliveries from non-EU mums accounted for a fifth of all births.
Under the current system, the NHS has three sets of charges. It should recoup funds for patients from the European Economic Area back from EU countries, under a reciprocal arrangement. It is also supposed to charge all visitors outside the EEA, and last year introduced a new surcharge which charges students and temporary migrants £200 a year for healthcare.